Is Cuddling Your Pet Good For You?
There’s nothing like an affectionate cuddle with your pet when you’re reunited after a long time apart. Your pet will be thrilled to have your attention. That warm, velvety soft fur is simply irresistible. But how safe is it to get close to your pet in this way? What are the risks of disease? Are some people more vulnerable than others? From planting a sloppy kiss on your pet’s head to inviting him to cozy-up at night on your bed, we investigate what’s safe and what to avoid in the pet cuddling department.
Hooray for cuddles!
Generally, cuddling your pet is indeed safe. Many believe that the mental health benefits of cuddles far outweigh the risks of getting sick. A good cuddle with your pet creates feelings of security and well-being. It has also been proven to reduce stress levels by lowering blood pressure together with harmful anxiety-related hormones like cortisol. It also raises happiness-inducing hormones like oxytocin! The effects are comparable to eating chocolate. But this is nothing new; therapy dogs have been used to visit nursing homes, help ease the pain of hospital patients and calm autistic children since the 1970s. Their healing power is very much palpable.
Down with kisses?
The jury seems to be out when it comes to kisses. Some believe that letting your pet lick your face or kissing them on the snout is pretty harmless. The bacteria and viruses in a dog’s or cat’s mouth are similar to those in a person’s mouth. However, other pet owners reel at the prospect of slobbery kisses. Just think where your pet’s little nose has been! It’s likely that, through scratching and licking, germs will end up all over a pet’s coat. In fact, a report by the CDC highlights the risk of transmission of zoonotic agents by close contact between pets and their owners which has lead to cases of MRSA, chagas, roundworm, rabies and even the bubonic plague transferred from pets to humans. This is one of a number of issues for owners who bedshare with pets. Those that practice good pet hygiene are at a greatly reduced risk. Other things to consider if you bedshare include sleep disturbance and aggravation of allergies.
It’s good to be cautious
There are instances when you need to be cautious of getting close to your pet. If you are pregnant and own a cat, you need to be aware of the risks of toxoplasmosis. This is an infection caused by a parasite in cat feces which can be picked up by clearing cat litter or touching garden dirt where your cat has been. Cuddles with your cat are safe as long as your cat is clean. Others who should practice caution when cuddling animals include children. Many young children find it difficult to interpret the body language of a pet. Cuddles should be supervised and guided by an adult at all times to guard against any dangers presented by a child who may be overly keen to show their affection.
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There’s no doubt about it, there are huge benefits to cuddling your cutie pie pet. The small risks to health shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying those soothing snuggles. As long as you are sensible and practice good pet hygiene, you can rest assured that your pet is the perfect snuggle bunny.
Photo by Andrew Spencer on Unsplash